Fun, Free Polling Apps

If you have enough Facebook friends, tossing out a quick question in your status update may be all you need to get a read on something. But if you want a more in-depth idea of what customer response might be to a new jewelry line, introduction of an unusual material, or new idea for an online shop, a formal poll might be just what you need.

Key to getting results from a survey is to making it short and simple. Experts advise keeping questions brief and to the point in order to maximize responses.

Think first about what you really want to know. Then prune your questions down to the crucial core.

For solo entrepreneurs, there's probably no need to pay for a subscription that allows multiple surveys every month. I'm sure most of us wouldn't think to do this more than once every few months. So, finding a free service with attractive, accessible templates and useful features shouldn't be too hard.

  • SurveyMonkey. Somebody used SurveyMonkey to create this poll to gauge interest in an online jewelry workshop. As you can see, SurveyMonkey creates a crisp, professional looking survey. Signing up for a free account gives you access to their templates, 10 questions a month, 100 responses per survey. You can access their basic, ready-made template and collect data via weblink, email, or Facebook. Or, you can embed the poll on your site or blog.
  • Squidoo. Jewelry artist Gayle Dowell put a poll on Squidoo to track jewelry trends and, so far, she's had a few hundred people take this poll (including me). It does show what you can do on this site with a "lens" or any poll that reveals real-time responses, including how many people answered each question.

Click on "Show the poll results" and a colorful bar graph pops up under each question. Among other things, it shows most people taking this poll are between 21 and 50 years of age, don't seek out titanium jewelry, and prefer silver by far (67 percent) to any other metal. And I thought we were all just wearing it because we couldn't afford gold anymore!

  • Polldaddy. I have this on my blog as a plug-in, but have yet to experiment with it. One jewelry blogger who has is Kay Donahue, who put up this no-frills poll. No fancy graphics or colorful bar graphs here, although it's possible to customize templates, even with the free plug-in.

More importantly, you can get fancy with the questions themselves – including multiple choice and fill-in-the-blanks. A free account at Polldaddy gets you 200 survey responses per month and 10 questions per survey (basic polls and quizzes). Readers will see Polldaddy links.

  • Share the love. Unless you have some compelling reason to keep the results close to the vest, reward participants by sharing the results. They'll be more likely to cooperate next time around.

CATHLEEN MCCARTHY is a freelance writer whose stories appear in Town & Country, AmericanStyle, Art & Antiques, and her own site, The Jewelry Loupe. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

NET PROFITS is a regular feature about using the Internet for jewelry selling of special interest to those with a home-based jewelry business that appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Learn more about discovering what your clients want in "Customer Surveys on the Cheap," August 2013.

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